Intervention report AR2 – 1st Cycle

  1. ZERO RECORDING

Recorded at: Dat Bolwerck, Zuthpen

Recorded on: 11th December 2015

Live recording of whole piece (12′) – first performance of this piece
(link to the first recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEQveMkj3Js)

  1. FEEDBACK

After my Zero Recording I sat down with my teacher and we discussed the performance, where he was present, and the resulting Zero Recording. There are several points that came up for improvement:

  • bowing:

    • I need to work on refining the suppleness of my bowing in this piece, due to the heavy resistance of the strings when playing double stops

    • I need to refine my subtlety in my bowing when I play accents, or when I have to play loud

  • intonation: since this piece incorporates many double stops and uses complex tonality, I need to work systematically in improving the organisation of my left hand through various exercises

  • dynamics: my general dynamics sound too contained, need to go to extremes more, really soft should be softer, really loud should be louder or more present

  • sound:

    • I need to think of a different colour for the tremolo’s, they should no be too heavy or rough, since this is French music

    • for some of the later passages I the piece, I need to find different sounds in my vibrato, slower or faster, to make my sound there more interesting

    • I need to think of/discover more sound colours for this piece, as generally my soft sounds and loud sounds remain the same throughout the piece, this fact being a bit boring

  1. DATA COLLECTION

    1. Rink’s Performer’s Analysis

Genre

  • piece for violoncello solo, referred to as a ‘morceau’ in French in the article JEAN-LOUIS FLORENTZ Les Jardins d’Amènta, Le Songe de Lluc Alari, L’Ange du Tamaris by Pierre Moulinier, therefore all musical responsibility lies with the single cellist

  • character is ‘mystérieux, majestueux’, mysterious, yet still majestic

  • secondary character is ‘libre et sauvage’, free and wild

  • this piece is kind of programmatic music, as it is based on a section of a story from the (Falacha) Bible, of which a part is noted in the introductory page of the score

Performing history

The piece was completed in 1995, commissioned by Festival des Bucoliques du Pays de Racan, Indre-et-Loire, and was premièred by Dominique de Williencourt, to whom the piece was dedicated. So far I have found two other cellists have played the piece, and have along with de Williencourt provided a recording. Yves Potrel recorded the piece in 1998 for MFA/Radio France, Arto Noras recorded the piece in 1998 for Arion, and Dominique de Williencourt recorded it in 1999 for Triton.

I have analysed two of the recordings mentioned, namely those of Dominique de Williencourt and Arto Noras. In the table below is a summary of the ways they approach the piece in different ways, despite both having worked with Jean-Louis Florentz personally.

Link to the table with images: Comparative analysis – table

Link to the Annotated score of Dominique de Williencourt’s recording:
L’Ange annotated score DdW p1
L’Ange annotated score DdW p2
L’Ange annotated score DdW p3
L’Ange annotated score DdW p4
L’Ange annotated score DdW p5
L’Ange annotated score DdW p6
L’Ange annotated score DdW p7
L’Ange annotated score DdW p8
L’Ange annotated score DdW p9

Link to the Annotated score of Arto Noras’ recording:
L’Ange annotated score AN p1
L’Ange annotated score AN p2
L’Ange annotated score AN p3
L’Ange annotated score AN p4
L’Ange annotated score AN p5
L’Ange annotated score AN p6
L’Ange annotated score AN p7
L’Ange annotated score AN p8
L’Ange annotated score AN p9

Tempo:To summarise the main points of differences,

  • both have roughly the same tempo choices

  • sometimes de Williencourt chooses slower tempo’s for some of the gestures, for example in bar 52, and sometimes he even plays half-tempo (bar

  • both have different ideas about direction of gestures: Arto Noras usually has a drive forward, and de Williencourt holds back or goes straight in tempo

Dynamics:

  • Arto Noras tends towards louder dynamics in louder parts, yet has very soft dynamics in bars 74-76, he is more extreme in his upper and lower boundaries

  • Dominique de Williencourt goes for a more contained dynamic range, but sticks closer to softer dynamics in the beginning of the piece

Character:

  • de Williencourt chooses to be more mystérieux in the beginning and end, and more lancinant in the middle section (bars 74 – 90)

  • Arto Noras goes more towards majestueux in the beginning and lancinant in the ending passages, but holds a more mystérieux and lointain character in the middle section

Notational Idiosyncrasies

Generally, we can say that Florentz uses a more traditional 20th century notation, when writing pitch, dynamics, rhythms and character. Nevetheless, there are certain features found in the score that are characteristic to this piece. He also doesn’t employ any extended techniques.

  • prevalent use of intentional harmonics

  • clear indication of string timbres (choice of string)

  • clear emphasis on notes (tiré)

  • dynamics generally in the piano range

  • many key signature changes

  • very specific use of accents (regular accent >, and smfz, sfz, sffz)

  • use of the term fixe to indicate holding a dynamic

  • prevalent use of fermatas, requesting a pause at the beginning/end of a phrase

  • dots at the end of fast gestures, indicating a break between the current and the next gesture

  • diverse rhythmic structure: slow, singing tones, with occasional passing notes, alternated by fast flurries of notes

  • contemporary instrument, meaning solid sound, almost entire register of cello (C2 – G5)

  • certain motives contain African rhythms written in an approximate way, gives two boundaries and requests the rhythms be performed in a way which lies in between

Compositional style

What characterises Jean-Louis Florentz’ musical language is a combination of two main influences: influences from Africa as a result of his studies there, particularly Ethiopian music, and the influence of French impressionism and from his teacher Olivier Messiaen. The way his compositions are presented are in a traditional 20th century French way of composing.

Physicality

Generally there are many challenges in this piece regarding the double voicing of the parts; all the double stops and sometimes triple stops. Sometimes fast notes follow in quick succession, and at other times long notes, which can be very soft, and demand great control and precision in bowing technique.

What makes the piece expecially physically demanding are the constant shifts between double stops. This is very heavy for the left hand, and also heavy for the bow as it has to let ring two strings at once. To manage intonation in these passages is especially difficult, when you take into account that the music asks these shifts to happen quickly.
Sometimes long singing lines are present, and these are difficult after certain double-stop passages, because your bow-arm is also tired after managing two strings continuously. What can happen easily is that too much tension remains in the bow-arm and that is ruinous to the sound in the long lines. It is very important to train to relax the bow-arm right before such a singing passage begins. Not only loud double-stops occur, but also double-stop passages in very soft dynamics, which adds the difficulty of managing the power of the left hand to make these awkward shifts, and to not let the bowing be disturbed by this.

An effect which especially demands good bow control is the tremolo (bar 5). Tremolo passages are supposed to be fast and nervous, and the arm easily tends to reject the force asked of it, making it seize up and blocking the movement. When playing this effect, it is also challenging to keep the left hand supple enough and the ears clean enough to control intonation and shifting.

In this link there is a full table of all major challenges I faced and my own proposed solutions to practicing and solving them: Physicality Analysis

Structure as shape

The score I have included below gives an overview of a combination between dynamic levels and textural density variations throughout the piece. This score gives me a general overview of the activity that occurs throughout the piece, and has prepared me for the challenge of playing the piece as a whole.

Link to the Structure as Shape score: Structure as shape score

    1. Lessons with Dominique de Williencourt

I has two lessons with Dominique de Williencourt on the 27th of April and the 28th of April, 2016. The lessons were focussed on the general impression he had of my playing this piece, featuring technical work, It turns out Jean-Louis was most interested in the natural environment and the animal sounds he heard in his surroundings in Ethiopia.

Lesson and technical advices:

Dominique de Williencourt gave me a lot of suggestions regarding technical handling of the piece. I have made a list of most of the effects and how de Williencourt suggested I deal with them, and all examples can be found in the annotated score I have provided:
– bar 1:
tiré
This is an effect of emphasis, and the suggestion is to use both the bowing and the left hand vibrato to do the emphasis.
– bar 5: tremolo
This effect is suggested to be very nervous, like an electric current, and the bow needs to move fast. The note at the end may be played with harmonic to continue to sound into the silence.

bar 10: complex rhythm
This effect is not really a cello-technical challenge, but how to produce it clearly is difficult. The effect takes place on the lowest string, on which clarity is always difficult. The suggestion is to not do rubato and to keep the individual figures very clear (3 + 4 + 5). Also suggested is to show or give the empty first beat to clarify the rhythm more.
– bar 15: tremolo over multiple strings
This effect demands very clean string changes and the suggestion is to think of it as one phrase and connect all the double stops by not stopping the tremolo between notes.
– bar 16: pizzicato with crescendo
The suggestion here is to use one of the hidden effect of playing, by gesturing a crescendo but not actually getting louder. This effect improves the sound significantly in this passage.
– bar 23: sudden dynamic change
The first beat is
forte, and the very next is immediately piano. The suggestion is to stop the bow briefly and continue with a new sound quality. Important not to be stressed in the bow, and just let it use its weight for the sound-production.
– bar 35: tricky hand positions
In the bar before very difficult shifting is required for all the double stops, and right before playing this bar the suggestion is to take some time to prepare the hand for the position.
– bar 44: awkward fingering over two strings
This fingering is suggested by the editor, and de Williencourt suggests a way to train the suppleness of the hand to allow this fingering. The exercises suggested are by André Navarra and entail stretching the hand actively.
– bar 49: good rhythm though difficult positioning
Here the left hand is challenged by many difficult shifts in rapid succession, but to keep the rhythm clean a short bow-stroke is suggested.
– bar 74-79: good sound in awkward positions
The issue here is to not let the left hand problems ruin the sound. Suggested is to focus on making the bow as legato as possible.
– bar 90&96: very big shifts in little time
Both bars have the same effect, except the second bar is a bigger shift. The suggestion here is to take a bit of time and stop the sound before making the shift, as this improves the audible clarity of the gesture.
– bar 121: ponticello tremolo
The challenge is to get a good sounding ponticello effect. The suggestion is to concentrate of the bow and keep it close to the bridge constantly, while applying little pressure.
– bar 134: new fingering for difficult passage upward
My own challenge was to not have clear intonation and clarity in the figure, but de Williencourt’s suggested fingering solved this issue.
– bar 153: big gesture for finale,with tremolo
The suggestion here is to take as much time as is needed. What is important is not the notes, or the strict length of time, but the whole gesture closing the piece.

African connection:

De Williencourt was not really aware of all the African and compositional backgrounds. He mostly mentioned the impact of certain images coming from African on the composer and the performer. One very important aspect of influence turned out to be the general surroundings, the impressions and the general feeling of being in an ancient and spacious country. Ethiopia was closed off from the world for a long period of its history, therefore indrustial developments have not yet reached a large scale, instead the country remains very rural. Furthermore, Florentz spent a lot of time in desert surroundings, as shown by his many field-trips to Algeria, Niger, Egypt, and other countries in the area of the Sahara desert.
Now, concerning the natural atmosphere of the desert, my main source of inspiration and knowledge for this interpretation are the words by de Williencourt. During my lesson he recalled going to Ethiopia and residing in the desert, and also playing cello there. The things that struck him most of all were the spatial emptiness, the sudden transitions from light to complete, pitch-black darkness, and the intense silence. Mostly he regards the silence of the desert as being an intergral part of the piece. Throughout L’Ange du Tamaris, there are many phrases that end with a sudden cut-off, and finish in rest (silence). De Williencourt considers it of paramount importance that these silences are treated as part of the music.
However, as the rests are considered as ‘audible silence’, so too are some passages with notes considered by de Williencourt to represent the silence of the desert. For instance, the opening measures feature a mood setting which is meant to represent the vast emptiness and silence of the surroundings.

Biblical connection:

This part of the interview stresses the programmatic aspect of this piece, connecting it to certain parts of the story and certain characters (dance michael, role of the reggae, sul ponticello connect to ghosts)
Another important aspect, which is connected to the natural atmosphere of Ethiopia, is the biblical story of Abraham. Many parts of the piece have a direct relation to certain parts of the story. Dominique de Williencourt mentioned that Florentz was a very religious and biblical man, and that to really understand the music in this piece I would have to be familiar with the specific story from the Bible. Now, concerning Florentz’ natural surroundings when he was in Ethiopia, he discovered a bird which seems to live exclusively in Ethiopia. The French name de Williencourt gave me is ‘Coessyphe d’Heuglin’, and very much like his teacher Messiaen, Florentz was fascinated by capturing the sounds made by animals and particularly birds.
Florentz also shared with his teacher the religious interpretation of birds. Their views are very similar. Olivier Messiaen regarded birds as ‘messengers from God’, while de Williencourt told me that Florentz regarded the presence of every bird as the witnessing of an angel. Though they chose their words differently, but their ideas are more or less the same. Therefore there are some specific passages that relate directly to the sounds of this bird. However, this fact should connect both Florentz’ fascination of the Bible and his interest in animal acoustics, which he spent many hours recording in Africa. This particular bird was recorded in Ethiopia. Also apparent from de Williencourt’s account was the connection between the Archangel in the Biblical story and the bird, since Florentz believe birds to be angels showing themselves on earth. The use of the bird imagery therefore suggests a reference to the actions of the Archangel in the story.

To clarify all of my points made here, I have included an annotated score which serves as a transcript for the lessons:
L’Ange du Tamaris, DdW lesson 27,28 p1
L’Ange du Tamaris, DdW lesson 27,28 p2
L’Ange du Tamaris, DdW lesson 27,28 p3
L’Ange du Tamaris, DdW lesson 27,28 p4
L’Ange du Tamaris, DdW lesson 27,28 p5
L’Ange du Tamaris, DdW lesson 27,28 p6
L’Ange du Tamaris, DdW lesson 27,28 p7
L’Ange du Tamaris, DdW lesson 27,28 p8
L’Ange du Tamaris, DdW lesson 27,28 p9

I have also included the literal transcript which I made from the recordings of both lessons on the 27th and the 28th of April:
Lesson 1 (27th): Transcript lesson 1 27.04.2016
Lesson 2 (28th): Transcript lesson 2 28.04.2016

  1. INTERVENTION

Following my Data Collection I have made choices regarding to how I intend to present the music. In the Annotated Score I include I have indicated choices belonging to certain catergories with letters, to indicate where I got the idea from.

Inspiration of the recordings [R]:

The recordings I analysed provided me with inspiration on length of notes, suggestions for dynamics and audible directions of several gestures. Some ideas for characters and tempo choices also come from these recordings. I have indicated which recording I choose from with [RW] (Recording de Williencourt) and [RN] (Recording Noras)

Physicality 1 (solutions by own experimentation) [PE]:

The study of the score has given me ideas on how to handle certain problems and make decisions based on my own experience as a cellist. Usually I go for kinds of sound and not practical solutions.

Physicality 2 (solutions provided by de Williencourt) [PW]:

These are the problems posed by the score that de Williencourt found a working solution for that works for me.

Inspiration of the lesson (how I use all the technical advises to project images provided by de Williencourt) [LW]:

The images that are introduced in the lesson summary are presented in the score. The images are noted in the Annotated score of de Williencourt’s lesson.

Link to the Recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCx39oytBTQ

Link to the Annotated Score: First Intervention Score

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